Palestinians in Gaza are being held hostage by Israel and Hamas

Jan 14, 2024
Israel and Palestine war crisis, political conflict, economy.

Shai Wenkert is the father of 22-year-old Omer Wenkert, who has colitis and is being held hostage by Hamas. Colitis is an accursed chronic disease which can be aggravated under stressful conditions and in the absence of medication and appropriate nutrition. It causes much suffering to people who have it.

Omer’s father has been sounding warnings from every possible platform: His son is in mortal danger. He tries not to think about his son’s condition, he said in one interview, but he doesn’t always manage to do that. Indeed, thinking about a person with colitis and having no medication, in Hamas captivity, is akin to thinking about hell. Omer needs to be released, or at least to quickly get the medication he needs.

One cannot maintain composure in face of his father’s calls. There is no person who would not be horrified by the thought of the young Omer’s suffering. At the same time, one cannot but wonder how many people suffering from colitis there are in Gaza now, under the same conditions as Omer’s, with no medication, no food and under stress.

Omer is imprisoned; people in the Gaza Strip with colitis and other chronic diseases are desperately fleeing for their lives. They have no bed on which to lay their sick, aching body, they have no home, their hygienic conditions are dreadful. They’ve been living for three months with a constant fear of dying, under.

Omer was kidnapped and is a hostage. The residents of the Gaza Strip are also hostages, and the conditions they live in, including the sick among them, are no better than Omer’s hell. They too need relief. They too must at least receive the medications they require, quickly. It’s too bad that Omer’s father believes that denying humanitarian aid to Gaza, including people with colitis, is the means that will lead to saving his son. However, one shouldn’t rush to judge a person in crisis.

There is no difference between Omer and Mohammed, who both have colitis. They share a similar fate, an unbearably cruel one. I try to imagine young Mohammed, suffering from colitis. In the 16 years Gaza has been besieged, it is unlikely that he’s received the best medications available for treating his disease. Getting him out of the Gaza ghetto for medical treatment when his disease worsened was difficult, often impossible.

Now, Omer is imprisoned in a dark, scary tunnel and Mohammed is roaming the streets hungry, at risk of contracting something in an epidemic, an intestinal infection or any other ill. At any moment, the next shell could overtake him. Mohammed and Omer are suffering torments we can’t even imagine.

To the 136 Israeli hostages one must add 2.3 million Gazan people, or however many of them are still alive, also as hostages.

The Israelis are hostages of Hamas, while Gazans are the hostages of both Israel and Hamas. Their fates are conjoined. When hostages released by Hamas earlier talked about the meagre food they received while in captivity, one pita a day with some rice occasionally, they also related that this is exactly what their captors received. This was something to think about, which no one in Israel bothered to do. That’s what there is in Gaza now, for the hostages and their captors, but no one talks about it.

Only Omer’s suffering hurts, not Mohammed’s. The Israelis were forcibly kidnapped to hell. The residents of the Gaza Strip were also forcibly kidnapped to the same hell. First it was Hamas’ cruelty, with one of its crimes being embarking on this war without preparing its home front; Hamas knew full well how intensely Israel would respond, but they didn’t bother to prepare any protection for Gazans – no hospitals, no supply of medicines or food, no shelters. That was the first kidnapping of Gaza’s residents. This was joined by the renewed Israeli occupation of Gaza, crueler than any of the previous ones.

Omer’s father, as mentioned, tries not to think about what his son is going through. One can empathise with him. It’s beyond a father’s ability to imagine the suffering of his child and feel so helpless in trying to save him. One’s stomach turns on hearing the father’s cries. But one cannot continue to shut one’s eyes and harden one’s heart in the face of the suffering of the rest of the hostages – the entire population of the Gaza Strip, including those with colitis.


Republished from HAARETZ on January 11, 2024.

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